19th Century Southern Fiction

June 1, 2007
Novus Atlas

Early Century Southern Fiction.

 

The 2007 San Francisco International Antiquarian Book Fair offered a treasure trove of nineteenth-century Southern fiction. Twenty-six pre-Civil War novels from the book fair are now available at the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

Twenty-three of the twenty-six titles are first editions that represent some of the rarest and most important works of antebellum fiction. Among the novels are Johnson J. Hooper's Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs (1845), William Tappan Thompson's Chronicles of Pineville (1845), Thomas B. Thorpe's Mysteries of the Backwoods (1846), and North Carolina author George Higby Throop's Bertie (1851) and Nag's Head: Or, Two months among The Bankers (1850).

Although many of the novels are comic or humorous, they also offer insight into significant aspects of Southern life. The subjects of courtship, country medicine, and the roles of African Americans and women in society are all addressed, often accompanied by illustrations highlighting those themes. Many of the illustrations are by Philadelphia artist F.O.C. Darley (1822-1888), whose work appeared frequently in nineteenth-century novels. Darley is known particularly for his illustrations of Charles Dickens' American editions.

Several of the novels also have the same publisher. The Philadelphia firm of Carey & Hart was receptive to Southern fiction and published numerous Southern novels in the 1840s, when the publishing industry was relying increasingly on fiction to raise profits.

These twenty-six novels complement substantial holdings of nineteenth-century literary materials housed in the library and enrich its already strong collections of Southern history and culture.